United Nations chemical weapons inspectors will leave Syria on Saturday after completing their probe into last week’s alleged poison gas attacks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.
The departure of U.N. inspectors could open a new window for possible U.S. military strikes on President Bashar Assad's regime.
The move comes as the Obama administration prepares to brief Congress on U.S. intelligence that it says shows proof the Assad regime was responsible for chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds, according to reports, in a Damascus suburb.
The U.S. and Britain are making plans for a potential military strike against Assad in response.
Ban said he spoke to President Obama on Wednesday and “expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states.”
Ban said “diplomacy should be given a chance” in Syria, but said “the use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances, is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable for."
A British resolution that would have authorized international military action in Syria failed at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.
The U.N. inspections team has spent three days in Syria and came under sniper fire earlier in the week. Ban said the U.N. would share results of the team’s findings with the U.S. and other members of the Security Council.
Obama said Wednesday no decision had yet been made on whether to launch military strikes.
"We have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place," Obama said in an interview with "PBS NewsHour."
Obama said the use of chemical weapons "violates Geneva Protocols," and that if the U.S. gets involved it intends to show Syrian forces it had "better not do it again."